Stop Poking Me, Mom! Is Facebook Losing the Teen Privacy Battle to Twitter?

%social engagement %social listeningThe other day my not-so-13-year old daughter asked me if she could set up a Twitter account.

This is the same girl who, last year, didn’t want a blog because she was not ready to espouse her voice in a public forum.

She eventually came around – much from peer pressure – and set up a Facebook account.

She loves it and spends the same considerable amount of time as her friends. She never tired of it. But something has clearly changed….

It wasn’t too long ago when everyone questioned the value of Twitter among teens.

Facebook was THE place. My friends are on Facebook… where else would I be?” “Twitter is for older people…not cool! “I don’t get it.”

Teens clearly do not and WILL not Tweet!

A report from Eloqua dated August, 2011 noted,

According to Pew Research users, only 8 percent of online teens use Twitter. Compared to the fact that 45 percent of online teens are on Facebook, that number is miniscule. If Twitter wants to keep growing, it needs to reach out to this key demographic. What can Twitter do to appeal to teens?

A friend and former colleague, Kathy Buckworth, award-winning author, writer and speaker and one of the most engaging Tweeps on Twitter wrote this post not too long ago,

Teenagers hate Twitter. Despise it. Ridicule it. Known to spout “Oh look at me I’m old and I’m telling you what I’m doing all the time,” to their Moms that are on it. That type of thing.

She went on to say that teens see Twitter as “useless and unnecessary”. This is consistent with Pew’s Research that indicates that teens care more about their friends. These are their established connections – kids they see everyday. Kids need peer validation, not public validation. And Twitter is too public.

At the time this article was written, it proposed the following,

Twitter needs to let users have the ability to limit communication to specific groups of people. This would allow users to control whom they share information with so that users could have ‘quieter conversations’ with certain followers.

In a way, Twitter has established that: through hashtagging ie. siloed conversations based on a common event or topic. However, this continues to be amplified and is not exclusive to those actually tweeting the content.

Shifting sands

Ironically, the following chart from Pew Research indicates that (at the time of the Eloqua article last summer) teen growth on Twitter had doubled from 8% to 16% since 2009. According to More Teens Jump over to Twitter, the deluge of adults, particularly parents, migrating to Facebook has made the platform less appealing to teens. This, coupled with increased privacy concerns, has made the move to Twitter easier for teens.

%social engagement %social listening

I had dinner with a former colleague who noticed a visible change in his teenager. The reason? Twitter is like BBM (BlackBerry’s undermarketed instant messaging service).

It’s a way to communicate to a small group of friends quickly and in small bursts. It removes the pressure to post on a Facebook wall where friends of friends may see it, not to mention Mom and Dad. In a sense, Twitter is the privacy from Facebook.

And while teens continue to opt for pseudonyms like “Angel385″ or “SydneySecond” to protect their identities, Twitter can embrace the anonymity that teens seek to express themselves without pressure and to follow and connect with others that our outside their peer-norm.

I sat down with my daughter to ask why she wanted to be on Twitter. She clearly stated that she was uncomfortable with me seeing her Facebook posts, and the notification emails. As much as I trust her, she says that she wants to have some privacy with her own friends.

Texting only allows her to speak to one friend at a time. Twitter is a faster conversation that can’t be done on Facebook, and can’t be afforded under our current phone plan. Ultimately, Twitter will become her safe haven from the pressures of the people she chooses not to communicate with but provides her with the option to voice her opinion if and when she wishes.

I accept that the internet is public and much of what we share will remain public for the most part. The insight I’ve received from this increasing phenomenon tells me that this will not always be the case. The teens of today will pave the way and direct how we cultivate and evolve communications.

I’ll be interested to see how social will morph in the next decade.

image: Rosaura Ochoa

About Hessie Jones

Hessie Jones has a passion for technology and positions herself on the cutting edge of the Internet, social media and video, and how they impact marketers and advertisers as the media landscape morphs with these devices. Follow Hessie at @hessiejones


  1. ClayMorgan says:

    A little anecdotal evidence. Oddly enough, when it comes to the social media platforms our newspaper uses to engage users, Twitter has the largest number of “teen” followers. Admittedly, our social media efforts are very fledgling (literally just a few weeks old) and just getting started, but I’ve found the high school set to be pretty accepting of Twitter, so far.

    • hessiej says:

       @ClayMorgan Hey Clay, thanks for your comments. Teens are helping sustain Twitter and that’s a great thing! It scares me to think that my daughter wants to move in this new frontier especially because of the privacy that it affords her from FB. Ultimately, teens are not concerned about establishing presence, but moreso about developing community so it will be interesting to see how this evolves Twitter from a teen standpoint.

  2. Clay Morgan says:

    Danny, as I posted on the blog, our daily newspaper has recently (finally?) started its social media engagement with readers. Interestingly enough, we have more local teens following us on Twitter than any other demographic. Of course, our efforts are very fledgling and literally only a few weeks old, so it will probably “balance out,” but initially, we’re reaching more teens through Twitter.

  3. Sarah Arrow says:

    That and Facebook can’t be viewed in schools but Twitter can. As soon as my teen found that she moved from FB to Twitter…

  4. karimkanji says:

    @JugnooMe u give teens too much credit. Its about simplicity and speed.

    • ohegarty says:

      @karimkanji @JugnooMe U CAN group text on a 17 yo does this all the time and fb is passe for teens except for private groups

    • DannyBrown says:

      @karimkanji I think you’ll find teens are a lot smarter than many folks give them credit for.

  5. Mike Ashworth says:

    i have noticed this amongst my great nieces, spending more time on twitter than fb

  6. Mike Ashworth says:

    the only dilemma is that i feel they will open themselves up to potentially more “bullying” from others

  7. Mike Ashworth says:

    social networking should come with a health warning. “you’ll open a door, but be aware it won’t all be good”

  8. Arno Shahmoradian says:

    I never liked Facebook’s privacy setting too confusing don’t know what is public or privet. Twitter is the way to go.

  9. Danny Brown says:

    Clay Crazy, huh? The print industry that’s “on its last legs” using Twitter to reach an audience that doesn’t even care about the platform… ;-)

  10. Danny Brown says:

    Sarah That’s a good point, miss!

  11. Danny Brown says:

    Mike Do you see Twitter as being more conducive to bullying? I’m more of the Facebook mindset, if only because of the amount of information that’s available on the platform. Either way, it sucks.

  12. Danny Brown says:

    Arno FB does seem to be determined to always mess up the privacy settings whenever they do an update. Gah…

  13. Clay Morgan says:

    @Danny We use social media for a couple of things. One, it does help drive traffic to our websites. Second, it is a great news gathering tool. Finally, we do use it to “tease” the print products. There are a number factors, but since my hiring, our print circ is up an average of 300 per day.

  14. Clay Morgan says:

    Also, I think the teens are after news pertinent to them – school stuff, local sports, their friends. Give it to them in a platform they want, and they’ll consume. I’ve argued this for years.

  15. Andrea Hypno says:

    I still remember a time when teens hanged out with friends in the real world but probably I’m becoming just old. :)
    I’m not a big fan of both, as everyone knows, but I think FaceBook has been a kind of golden mine for phishing: real names, pictures, private stuff… Someone with just a bit of knowledge can forge an identity in minutes using FaceBook. It has been successful because it seems that almost everyone want to show himself publicly to the world but I’ve never seen a real utility in FaceBook. When I want to meet friends I go out and meet friends. As I said I’m becoming old. Also let’s not forget that FaceBook keeps everything and profiles everyone, something that sooner or later will become its Achille’s heel. And destroy it.
    Twitter is somehow better and has a greater privacy, you just have to create a special account and keep it private to use it with only your friends; plus you won’t get requests to join games and similar things. These teens on FaceBook now are not very concerned about privacy but ten years from now when all their informations, beside having been sold to everyone, will be still there for everyone to see I guess they will.
    So, better real life than online life, but definitely better Twitter than FaceBook. Imho. ;)

    • hessiejones says:

       @Andrea Hypno Andrea, you are bang on. My daughter– and yes I am totally getting this first hand from my 12-year-old– realizes that people are stalking her page and using her pics and wall posts to make fun or cause an argument.  Chats and DMs somehow always get leaked and get exposed to potentially friends of friends.
      For now, Twitter is a safe haven and the privacy and speed of DM is very appealing. Add to that the profile “pseudonym”, and no requirement for personal information makes Twitter a great alternative for teens. 
      I’ve told my daughter to be careful of what she posts and how she words things because it can come back to haunt her. She has relayed the same warning to her friends. I have a feeling the next few years will start to see kids become less transparent in their posts. Hopefully, our kids are getting smarter. 

      • Andrea Hypno says:

         @hessiejones Well given that FB itself leaks everything then the fact that accounts are leaked is just a consequence. A phisher has just to do what the site does routinely. But you can tell your daughter that if things come out she can always say that her account was hacked. No one can demonstrate if it’s true or not so it’s a good defense, just when in trials someone says “Sorry, I don’t remember”. :)

  16. JugnooMe says:

    Oh, @JustInTheSouth – we can never give you enough thanks for all your support!

  17. JugnooMe says:

    Merci pour le RT, @Hgibier! ^HA


  1. [...] Stop Poking Me, Mom! Is Facebook Losing the Teen Privacy Battle to Twitter? [...]

  2. [...] Twitter seems to be a cleaner evolution of texting, except with broader groups of friends. And because the parent crowd doesn’t seem to be on it [...]

Speak Your Mind